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Matthew 3:13-17

The baptism of Jesus, and how it relates to you.

Tom Faletti

March 15, 2024

Matthew 3:13-17 Jesus is baptized by John


What happens in this passage?


What do you think is the most significant word or statement or detail in this account, and why?


William Barclay notes that the Jews had never seen baptism as being for Jews, but only for non-Jewish proselytes joining the Jewish faith.  In their mind, baptism was for sinners, not the for the Chosen People.  When John came baptizing and Jews submitted to his baptism, they were recognizing in a new way their own sin and their need for God to do something about it (Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1, pp. 52-53.)


Matthew is the only Gospel to include John protesting that Jesus should not be baptized.  What is Jesus’s response?


What is “righteousness,” and what does it mean to fulfill all righteousness?

To live a “righteous” life is to live a life totally in accordance with the will of God.  To “fulfill all righteousness” suggests that God wanted Jesus to do this.


Why do you think Jesus chose to be baptized (or that the Father wanted Jesus to be baptized) when Jesus was not in need of repentance?

One of the reasons Jesus might have done this was to demonstrate his identification with humanity.  By accepting baptism, Jesus was identifying himself with sinful humans, counting himself as being one of us, which he will do in an extraordinary way on the Cross.


In what ways does a willingness to be baptized show an attitude of humility?

As the Son of God, Jesus was greater than John; but here he was placing himself in a position of submission to John (see Matthew 1:11).  This act of placing himself in the inferior position is one of the early examples of what I call Jesus’s downside-up approach to life – he cares about the people in what society considers to be inferior positions.  Here, he even takes the lesser position for himself, as he will do at other times in his ministry.  He was constantly serving those who should be serving him, and making that the norm for Christian living.


Matthew is establishing from the beginning that Jesus is the Messiah, but a particular kind of Messiah.  How does Jesus’s decision to be baptized reflect the kind of Messiah he is?



There is a really important point here about John.  It says he “consented” (3:15, NRSV).  What is the importance of our consent in doing the work of God and fulfilling all righteousness?


Why do you think God speaks from the heavens at this moment? God rarely manifests himself with an audible voice.  Why here?


In Mark 1:11, the voice says, “You are” my beloved son.  In Matthew 3:17, the voice says, “This is” my beloved son.”  One version of the statement is directed toward Jesus and the other is directed toward the onlookers.  Does that difference bring out different nuances about what is going on here?


What do God’s words tell us about Jesus?


The proclamation from heaven about Jesus harkens back to two Old Testament passages.  Psalm 2 is about the anointing of the king but points to the Messiah.  Verse 2 refers to the Lord and his “anointed.”  The word “Christ” is the Greek word for “anointed one,” and “Messiah” is the Hebrew word for “anointed one,” so we look at Psalm 2 as speaking about the Messiah.  In verse 7, God says, “You are my son; / today I have begotten you” (Psalm 2:7, NRSV), words that echo in God’s words when Jesus is baptized.  Similarly, Isaiah 42:1 begins the description of the Suffering Servant that culminates in the great prophecies of Isaiah 53 that point to Jesus’s crucifixion.  In 42:1, God says, “Here is my servant whom I uphold, / my chosen one with whom I am pleased” (Isaiah 42:1, NABRE), again using words that echo in Jesus’s baptism.  God seeded the Old Testament with prophecies that pointed to Jesus and then confirmed them as Jesus began his ministry.


Baptism is accepted by most Christian denominations as a sacrament instituted by Christ.  How does what happens to Christians in baptism parallel what happens in this story about Jesus’s baptism?


Notice the similarities in these brief summaries from two different Christian traditions:


  • The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible says: “The water, Spirit, and divine voice signify the effects of baptism whereby the soul is cleansed (Acts 22:16), the grace of the Holy Spirit is imparted (3:11; 1 Cor. 12:13), and the recipient is adopted as a beloved child of God (3:17; Gal. 3:26-27; Catechism of the Catholic Church 537)” (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, Matthew 3:15 fn., p. 12).


  • Evangelical Presbyterian theologian Vern Poythress writes: “So the features depicted in Jesus’s baptism by John come to apply through Jesus to us.  We are cleansed from sin by the washing with Jesus’s blood, signified by the water of baptism.  Heaven is opened to us through Jesus, giving us communion with God the Father (Heb 10:19–20).  We receive the Holy Spirit, who descends on us when we have faith in Christ (Rom 8:9–10).  We hear the voice of God the Father, who calls us sons in union with Christ the Son (Rom 8:14–17; Gal 4:4–7), and who is pleased with us on account of his being pleased with his eternal Son (Eph 1:4–10)” (Vern Poythress, “The Baptism of Jesus,” The Gospel Coalition,


What does the baptism of Jesus say to you about your own life?


How does the Trinity show up here, and why is that significant?


It took Christians hundreds of years to work out exactly how to speak accurately about the Trinity, but they did not make up the concept – it shows up here at the very beginning of Jesus’s ministry as the Father speaks about the Son while the Holy Spirit hovers over it all in the form of a dove.


Not are not the same as Jesus, but you too are a beloved son or daughter of God.  If God proclaimed something about you, what would he want you or others to know about you?



Take a step back and consider this:


When Christians are baptized, they are making a public profession that they belong to God the Father (or their parents make that profession on their behalf, in the case of infant baptism).  They are embracing what Jesus has already done for them, and looking forward to what God will continue to do in them by the power of the Holy Spirit.


If you have been baptized, how are you embracing and living up to what you professed (or what was professed for you on your behalf) when you were baptized?


If you have been baptized, how are you embracing the indwelling of the Holy Spirit received in your baptism?


Is there more you might consider doing to respond to the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life?


If you have not been baptized, is this something you should consider?  If so, who could you talk to about it?



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Copyright © 2024, Tom Faletti (Faith Explored, This material may be reproduced in whole or in part without alteration, for nonprofit use, provided such reproductions are not sold and include this copyright notice or a similar acknowledgement that includes a reference to Faith Explored and See for more materials like this.

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